I want to write about summer forever, that last perfect summer, the one in everyone’s head. When wearing shorts for the heat of the day and a hooded thick sweatshirt for the cool of the evening and driving your first car seemed so impossibly grown up while equally impossibly, I was doing it.
The river that caught me was at Farleigh Hungerford, a place where the wild garlic grew, a place with a tiny Post Office but no people there any more to use it. I went in once, just to see. I didn’t want anything. Except I did. I wanted to see the lost places, the empty rooms. Things still happened there, near the castle. The Village Pump Folk Festival, the motorcycle races. But always the castle, on top of the hill, overlooking the river. There was a Roman flashlock in the bend of the river. Oliver Cromwell took the roof off it. There was a cottage at the bottom of the hill made from the stones of the castle and an old couple who lived there. One day they took up a floorboard and found a gun, hundreds of years old, secreted away there for nobody knew how many lifetimes. The old woman turned deaf one day when she thought her son was drowned in the river, caught by the weed. Once long ago I had a picnic there one night, with my mate Phil and my girlfriend, and Emma, this girl who was sort-of Phil’s girlfriend, a bit, and someone I was sort-of hoping might be my girlfriend. It was cold that night, that Easter. Cold and we were young and not used to being in an old castle at night, even one open to the night.
But when I remember that place it’s always summer. The same as it was one morning just before the sun was up when I cycled past so early, so early in my life.